Both Spiritual and Intellectual

The Lord says:
“These people come near to me with their mouth
    and honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me
    is based on merely human rules they have been taught.
Therefore once more I will astound these people
    with wonder upon wonder;
the wisdom of the wise will perish,
    the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.”

  • Isaiah 29:14-15

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
    the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

  • 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

“ ‘Before the coming of the Lord, the Greeks needed philosophy for righteousness. And now it leads to piety. It is a kind of preparatory training for those who reach faith through demonstration.  For God is the cause of all good things: of some directly, as with the Old and New Testaments; of others indirectly, as with philosophy. Maybe philosophy was even given to the Greeks directly, until the Lord should call them. For it was a schoolmaster to bring the Greek mind to Christ, as the [Old Testament] Law did for the Jews. Thus philosophy was a preparation, paving the way for those who are brought to perfection in Christ.’ (Clement, Carpet Bags 1.5)”
“Clement sought an orthodox alternative to Gnosticism, but was not entirely innocent of letting in Gnostic ideas through the back door. It is true that faith leads on to knowledge. But there was with Clement the tendency for ‘faith’ to mean orthodox Christianity and ‘knowledge’ to mean Greek thought. Fundamental to his theology is the idea of impassibility. Greek thought held God to be impassible: beyond all emotion or feeling. This state was also seen as the goal for the philosopher and Clement believed that the Christian Gnostic could attain to it. While pagan philosophers fight against their desires, the spiritual Christian has none. This ideal of impassibility, which was to have a very profound influence on Christian ideals for a long time, is foreign to the Bible. But Clement’s mistakes should not obscure his achievement in linking the desire for intellectual and spiritual progress to the Church and to orthodox Christianity. It was in part through the labours of Clement and others like him that Egyptian Christianity had become staunchly orthodox by the fourth century.”

  • Tony Lane, A Concise History of Christian Thought

As for the Scriptures, the first is quoted within the second.  In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul is describing the conundrum that Christians have faced for about 2,000 years.  When you accept Jesus on a spiritual level and become one of His own, there are aspects of our faith that seem foolishness to those who have not experienced Jesus Christ personally.  Yet, Clement tried, maybe not fully succeeding, in trying to create a bridge between the spiritual and the intellectual.  Christians can and should be great thinkers, for we have seen beyond where others are blind.

Titus Flavius Clemens, a.k.a. Clement of Alexandria (150?-215?) makes a point in the first paragraph of the quote above that I have made in past philosophy discussions.  A very few hundreds of years before Jesus was born, the Greek philosophers were looking for some manifestation of pure truth.  They died before Jesus was on the scene, but many of them came close to the teachings of Jesus, making some modern philosophers think that they had a copy of the Jewish Scriptures.

But Clement, who was raised in a pagan home, tried to reconcile many Gnostic beliefs into his orthodox Christian faith.  As the analysis of his theology states, his faith was in Christ, but his intellect was in Greek philosophy.  He saw the connection, but he fell short of melding the two together.

Among the things mentioned in Clement’s theology was the concept that married couples should never have sex unless for the purpose of procreation.  This probably stemmed from his idea of Christians being impassible as he thought God was.  Odd, God is love.  God got angry. Jesus wept and more than once.  But spiritual Christians should never show any type of emotions?!  Definitely not biblical.

It is sad that this idea of impassibility has survived 2,000 years while Gnosticism went out with the bath water in the 4th or 5th Centuries.  My mother was a firm believer in Clement’s ideas on sex and impassibility, at least for the Christian.  I made a comedy routine out of the first time I ever saw her laugh, when I was in my teens.  Hey!  I thought she was having a heart attack!  Before she got to the point where she could not control the crying, she went into her bedroom and locked the door so that no one saw her weakness.  But anger?  She never exploded.  It was always a slow boil, but you knew when to back away.  She did not hide that one well.  Speaking through clinched teeth was a dead giveaway.  And she lectured us on public displays of affection, and she lived by those lectures.  I walked by my parent’s open bedroom door and saw a rare hug, but I never saw a kiss, even in our home, except for momentous occasions, like a major milestone anniversary, and then a polite peck.

But the last two sentences in the theology quote above is why I write these Tuesday morning posts.  We, as a human race, have lost the desire for critical thinking, and many lack the skill or intellect.  And the secular world has labeled Christians as being the knuckle draggers (non-thinkers) of today.  However, a careful study with an open mind shows quite the opposite.  And the more I study the Old Testament prophets, I find more and more of their obscure statements coming true each day.  Yet, so many have quit thinking and they look at the Bible as being an old out-of-date book.  How wrong they are on both counts.

Let us go back to biblically intellectual conversations.  We can find great truth there.

If you like these Tuesday morning essays about philosophy and other “heavy topics,” but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Tuesday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

2 Comments

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  1. “Let us go back to biblically intellectual conversations. We can find great truth there.” I absolutely agree! Well done, Mark.

    Liked by 1 person

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